June 11 2014
This might be a genre movie but it’s different, quirky and has a diverse range of talent behind it…
IT’S NOT often you get a British teenage horror film with multi-racial talent both in front of – and behind – the camera.
“Unhallowed Ground” is just that – written by, and featuring Paul Raschid, it also inlcudes Rachel Petladwala (“MI High”) and Marcus Griffiths (Royal Shakespeare Company/“Skins”).
Both Petladwala and Griffiths won awards at the London Independent Film Festival in April, picking up gongs for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and Best Supporting Actor’, respectively. The film also won an award for Best Horror Film at the same festival.
It’s not difficult to see why it has already garnered such praise – this is a neatly constructed piece of cinema – a decent script, a plausible story (within the genre, of course) with a few twists and turns and an attractive and able cast.
There is also commendable direction from Russell England, an experienced documentary filmmaker, making the crossover to fiction, and the music by Xiaotian Shi certainly helps to add to the atmosphere.
Morgane Polanksi, daughter of the famous film director, Roman, also features in one of the lead parts. As well as the relative newcomers in the teens, there’s Ameet Chana, reprising the role of a nervy, twitchy burglar.
Produced by Paul’s father, Neville, a former chartered accountant, turned movie mogul, “Unhallowed Ground” is his fifth movie and one that could help his Aviary Films produce a line of similar horror genre flicks. It’s already planning a new one to be shot at the end of this year.
“It’s very much an intelligent teen movie – that’s very much the space we want to be in,” Neville Raschid told www.asianculturevulture.com
It might not be the scariest film you will see, but the set-up is decent.
Six star public school pupils have been given one final task before passing out with the highest honours their schools can confer on them. They must perform an overnight patrol duty the day after their schools break up. Most public schools have a Combined Cadet Force, which introduces pupils to army culture and life and there is a basic training of sorts. Apparently, as the film depicts, regular army folk call these cadets, ‘toy soldiers’. Seems apt.
The headmaster, Dr Carmichael (Andrew Lewis) promises them a few surprises and tests and has a sadistic twinkle in his eye when he tells them this.
Set in a 350-year-old plus public school (the real Mill Hill), the six cadets – Rishi (Raschid), Daniel (Thomas Law), Aki (Griffiths), Meena (Petladwala), Verity (Poppy Drayton), Sophie (Polanski), all have their own demons.
So too does the school – during the Great Plague (1665), four boys were believed to have been murdered in the grounds… on the same day as the pupils must perform the patrol.
Amidst this, two slightly bumbling burglars – Chana as Jazz and Will Thorp as Shane – have their eyes set on the school’s archives and its valuable artefacts.
Both Chana and Thorp – as memorable characters with memorable fates – threaten to steal the movie from the youngsters, but Paul manages to keep things on track.
“It was very organic,” said Paul about the writing. “I wrote about what I knew and what inspired me and it just happens to be a very British piece. I like the work of Kevin Williamson who wrote ‘Scream’. There is also “The Faculty” (1998) which didn’t get as much acclaim but I think is brilliant.”
At 22, Paul, shows a deft hand with characters and plot – there is a twist which is smart and slightly unsettling – as it should be in a horror piece.
“I wanted to go for characters who you could invest a lot of emotion in and that makes it more scary and suspenseful, if you actually care about the characters,” expanded Paul, who attended the North London public school Merchant Taylors’ (founded 1561).
His own character Rishi is the Asian scholar/nerd, while Aki is the cocky, macho lady-killer and Daniel is Mr Upright (and Mr uptight) in all respects, but having a wobble as he’s just been dumped.
The girls too represent a counterbalance – Verity, flirty and naughty, Meena – sporty and clean (supposedly) and Sophie, sensible and sensitive.
“The quality of the script is reflected by people like Morgane Polanski wanting to be in it,” said Neville.
“She came out of drama school and auditioned. We were auditioning in a church hall in Ealing and she turned up.”
It’s something of a testament to “Unhallowed Ground” that both Polanski and Drayton have gone onto bigger productions now.
Polanksi can be seen in “Vikings” season 3 on the History Channel; while Drayton has clinched a leading part in “The Shannara Chronicles”, a fantasy adventure series which will air on MTV this year.
Neville, whose last film was “Naachle London” (a Hindi film but made in Britain by British talent) and which he directed, did things a little differently this time when he came to make “Unhallowed Ground”.
“I talked to my distribution contacts and I asked them what sells for low budget movies and they said ‘teenage horror’. So I came back to Paul and said can you write a horror film.”
Paul, whose first screenplay, “Namaste Nick”, a romantic comedy, is also on an upcoming slate of Aviary Films, responded positively.
“Yes, absolutely I love horror and those films have a very loyal fan base.”
“Unhallowed Ground” cost around a £1 million to make said Neville, and was financed through private equity and tax break schemes that make investing in films an attractive proposition.
It has a distributor in Kaleidoscope and an international sales agent in Jinga Films.
“About 25 distributors saw it before we got one. It was a still a struggle,” reported Neville.
- ‘Unhallowed Ground’ goes on release in the UK from June 12…